Thinking Like Your Child: The Secrets to Turning Your Kids Into Lifelong Hikers
Doctors tell us that there are few activities which are as healthy as walking. It is good for the joints, the muscles, the heart, the lungs…and the brain. It is an activity that can continue into old age. One of the best things parents can do for their children is to help them develop a lifelong enjoyment of hiking. But how can you tear them away from the TV or smartphone and get them outside?
The Kids’ Viewpoint
The secret seems to be that parents should view the hike from the child’s point of view. Of course, that varies from child to child, but some things are fairly consistent:
- They don’t like being taken for granted
- They have short attention spans
- They like food
Getting the kids on your side begins with the planning. Depending on their ages, involve them as much as possible in preparing for the trip.
With young children, that might mean deciding which toys they are going to take with them and helping to prepare the snack box.
Older children may be able to plan the route with you and can be consulted on what sort of scenery/wildlife/plants they would like to look out for.
If you are lucky enough to have an off-road vehicle like the Jeep Patriot, they could help you work out just how far off the beaten track you can drive.
On the Hike
The important thing on a hike is to go at the kids’ pace. The younger the children, the slower you will walk and less distance you will cover. Be prepared to stop frequently and talk about anything that catches their eye.
Children get bored very quickly; it is no good expecting them to plod on regardless. The other side of the coin is that they easily forget they are bored if they are suitably distracted. If everything about the walk is boring, try turning the conversation to something completely different which you know interests them, perhaps a game they like or a film they have enjoyed. After a few minutes, they may forget that they are meant to be bored.
Feed them. Children’s energy levels drop quickly, and food will always interest them. Be prepared to carry lots of snacks and to stop at frequent intervals to consume them. If you promise them they can stop for a snack when they reach point X, make it worth their while to get there.
If they can’t live without their phones, enlist the phones’ help with one of the many apps that are available to add a technological dimension, or to find geocaches.
A Joy for Life
Far too many children are put off hiking by being made to feel like unnecessary burdens on interminable route marches. If you want your kids to discover the joy of hiking and to carry on hiking for the rest of their lives, go at a child’s pace and see the world through a child’s eyes.
Kyle Stephens is a Father of two who plays an active role in his kid’s lives. He pens some parenting articles from time to time.